#India# Jharkhand # Tribalrights – Dayamani Barla:Gagged Again!


Gagged again!

Minutes after getting bail, tribal activist Dayamani Barla returns to life behind bars. Soumik Mukherjee reports

DAYAMANI BARLA, who was arrested earlier last week (State Ploy to Silence a Dissenting Voice?, 27 October), was rearrested in connection with the same case by the Jharkhand Police minutes after she was granted a judicial bail by a local court on 19 October. Barla’s arrest proves how a dissenting voice is shown little regard by the system, and how a state meant for tribals is safeguarding the interests of all, but tribals.

The police was acting on a separate FIR filed against Barla in 2006 in connection with the case that saw her arrest last week. Both the FIRs were filed after she led a protest outside a Block Development Officer’s office in Ranchi, demanding fair distribution of MGNREGS job cards. Interestingly, while the first FIR mentioned her name, the second FIR, on the basis of which she was rearrested, does not mention it; she was included under the ‘Others’ list.

In January, police questioned Barla for alleged Maoist links after she attended a conference in Ranchi where Binayak Sen and Telugu poet Varavara Rao had demanded the release of political activist Jiten Marandi. Barla’s colleagues term the latest arrest as “a shameless act” by the state authorities. Ranchi SSP Saket Kumar Singh refused to comment on the matter, saying: “Write whatever you want to. What difference will it make anyway?”

Barla has been at the forefront of land rights agitation in Jharkhand and one of the principal voices against State-sponsored atrocities against tribals. It is largely thanks to her efforts that steel companies such as Arcelor-Mittal were forced to stop acquiring large swathes of tribal forestland in Jharkhand.

Since land in Jharkhand is protected under the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and as most areas in the state come under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, farmland cannot be used for industrial purposes. But the government has been giving out farmland for industrial and urbanisation projects. Barla has ceaselessly stood up against these projects, constantly drawing the government’s ire.

At TEHELKA’s THiNK fest last year, Barla had drawn attention to the plight of the farmers and tribals in Jharkhand. Ironic that within a year of her rousing speech that was greeted with a standing ovation, this crusader finds herself all alone in her fight against the State’s excesses.

Soumik Mukherjee is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
soumik@tehelka.com

 

Cultural Activist Utpal Baski arrested and produced before the court


, TNN | May 15, 2012,

RANCHI: Cultural activist and executive member of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) Uttpal Baski was produced before the chief judicial magistrate Giridih on Sunday following pressure mounting from the outfit and other human right activists.

Denying allegations of unlawful detention, Giridih additional superintendent of police (ASP) Sanjay Kumar said Baski was arrested on Sunday morning and produced before the judge the same evening.

Asked about charges under which Uttpal was booked, Kumar said he was a member of Jharkhand Aven, a banned outfit, and was involved in the propaganda work of Nari Mukti Sangh, another banned outfit of the CPI (Maoists). “He admits being the member of the bannedJharkhand Aven and that is sufficient for his arrest under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA),” he said. The ASP, however, unable to cite the exact charges under which Baski was booked.

RDF national president and known Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao intervened in the matter and demanded unconditional release of Baski.

Issuing an appeal to democratic organizations and individuals to raise their voices against the alleged illegal act of the police, Rao said Baski was a singer and a composer. “He is a tribal cultural activist who was elected to the all India executive committee in the first conference of the RDF held on April 22-23 in Hyderabad,” the letter reads.

Rao’s letter mentions that Baski was arrested by Giridih police near Dumri More on May 7 when he was returning from Ranchi after appearing in a court case. “Cultural activists of Jharkhand Aven were waiting for him in a village when he was detained by Dumri police around 3pm on May 7 from a public bus in which he was travelling,” Rao said.

Local human right activist Damodar Turi said one of his associates and co-passengers on the bus informed members of Jharkhand Aven that Baski was forced to get off the bus and taken into custody.

Jharkhand Aven is a revolutionary cultural organization whose general secretary Jeetan Marandi was sentenced to capital punishment by a court in connection with Chilkhari attack in which former chief minister Babulal Marandi‘s son Anup Marandi was killed.

The judgment was later reversed by the high court and Marandi was acquitted of all charges related to Chilkhari case.

Earlier, soon after the arrest of Jeetan Marandi, police arrested Baski under UAPA. He was in jail for almost a year and recently came out of prison on bail. He played an active role in campaigns taken up by Jeetan Rihai Manch (Release Jeetan Front) for his acquittal.

The efforts were successful and Jeetan was acquitted by the high court.

Harassment of Dayamani Barla (Jharkhand) by local police


Dayamani Barla - the firebrand

Image by Joe Athialy via Flickr

On 14th January, in the evening, a Police Mobile Van of Chutya Thana (Ranchi) landed at her hotel on Club Road, Ranchi, and started to harass her staff asking about her links with anti-social elements. The Sub-Inspector making the ‘enquiries’ had neither no written permission or order. The following day, when Ms. Barla, met SSP Ranchi, Mr. Saket Kumar at his residence to ask why she was being harassed in this manner, his response was that the allegations were being made on the basis of an complaint and the fact that she participated in the “Free Jiten Marandi Convention”, in which Varavara Rao was also present.

Harassment of activists on flimsy pretexts and on grounds that they exercised their Constitutionally guaranteed democratic rights is a dangerous trend and will be resisted robustly by human rights activists everywhere.

Who is Dayamani Barla ?

Dayamani knows the cost of fighting against the powerful. Born in a village in Gumla district of Jharkhand to a landless family, Dayamani’s father was forced to give up his house to usurious moneylenders when she was still young. Her mother had to find work as a domestic in Ranchi and Dayamani had to work to supplement the family income from the age of nine. But she also continued to study, and worked to support her family by giving tuitions and typing, at the rate of Rs.1 per hour. Many children under such circumstances would have given up education. But Dayamani persisted and cleared not just high school but even university. She did her Masters in Commerce from Ranchi University and went on to be an award-winning journalist and author. She was clear from the start that she wanted to use her pen to give a voice to those who are otherwise not heard.

She  has lead the fight against Arcelor-Mittal‘s plans to set up a giant steel plant in Jharkhand. Why should she oppose industry that will create jobs in her State? Because she believes that the price that the tribals pay when they are displaced from their lands cannot be compensated through a few jobs or money. “Natural resources to us are not merely means of livelihood but our identity, dignity, autonomy and culture have been built on them for generations,” she is reported as saying. She believes that the location of such a huge plant will adversely affect the forests and water sources in the region.

She believes that the price that the tribals pay when they are displaced from their lands cannot be compensated through a few jobs or money.

Dayamani honed her skills for such a struggle when she joined the tribal groups opposing the Koel Karo dam in the 1990s. The dam would have submerged 66,000 acres and displaced 135,000 tribal families from their lands. Because of their determined struggle, the plans to build the dam were finally shelved.

As a journalist, she has used her pen to write about not just the injustices meted out to tribals resisting efforts to displace them, but also to expose the corruption in several government-run schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Here fake muster rolls allow contractors to claim money on behalf of the poor. Only vigilance by local groups or by the media can ensure that the scheme actually serves the purpose for which it was designed. Through her writing, primarily in the newspaper Prabhat Khabar, Dayamani has set a standard for the kind of relevant journalism that is rare at a time when celebrity and sensation dominate all media.

We, strongly condemn the harassment of social activist and human rights’ defender, Dayamani Barla by the Jharkhand Police. Dayamani, a well known and noted journalist-turned-activist and human rights’ defender based in Jharkhand, is one of the leaders of anti-displacement movements. She is also part of many organisations, movements and federations, INSAF and NAPM.

In solidarity

 

In solidarity,

1. Kavita Srivastava, National Secretary,PUCL

2. Manisha Sethi, President, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA)

3. Harsh Dobhal, Human Rights Law Network

4. Mahtab Alam, Coalition for Protection of Human Rights’ Defenders (CPHRD)

5. Viya Bhushan Ravat, Human Rights’ Activist and Writer, Delhi

6.Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human Rights lawyer and Activist, Mumbai

 

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